Dr. Scott Gottlieb is seen in this American Enterprise Institute photo released in Washington, DC, U.S., March 10, 2017. Courtesy The American Enterprise Institute/Handout via REUTERS

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. government proposed cutting nicotine in cigarettes to “non-addictive” levels on Friday in a major regulatory shift designed to move smokers toward potentially less harmful e-cigarettes.
Shares of major tobacco companies in the United States and UK slumped in heavy trading volume after the proposal was unveiled by the head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, with the world’s biggest producers losing about $26 billion of market value.
“Nicotine itself is not responsible for the cancer, the lung disease and heart disease that kill hundreds of thousands of Americans each year,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said.
“It’s the other chemical compounds in tobacco and in the smoke created by setting tobacco on fire that directly cause illness and death.”
The FDA cannot reduce nicotine levels to zero, nor can it ban cigarettes. But Gottlieb said the agency would study regulating nicotine levels with …
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